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Apprentice opportunities expanding

Gov. Tom Wolf recently met with leaders of the District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund to announce the expansion of apprenticeship programs across the state “in early education, health care and more.”

“There’s been a big push to get more apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs in the state,” said Anthony Payne, Huntingdon Career and Technology Center executive director.

Apprenticeships are part of the PAsmart initiative to strengthen the state’s workforce.

Rolled out in 2017, the initiative has received $70 million over the past two years, including $40 million for science and technology education and $30 million for apprenticeships and job training programs.

The push for more apprenticeship programs follows on the heels of Wolf signing House Bill 265 in late October, which provides equipment grants for career and technical education as well as enhancing career information and recruitment.

“Wolf has always been a big proponent of career and tech,” said Payne. “I’m actually doing some work for some pre-apprenticeship programs here, as well.”

Pre-apprenticeship programs are just as they sound like.

“It just means that as they do the program here at career and tech they’re also gaining hours towards their apprenticeship. They’re basically guaranteed a job once they leave here based on that apprenticeship,” said Payne.

“It would basically be students tied to a business. So a business would become a sponsor. Typically it’s a business in the construction or an electrical trades, or carpentry, something tied to union jobs.”

At the moment, there are no lack of jobs within career and tech fields.

“The problem with skilled labor is there is no consistent pool of applicants to pull from for these different companies,” said Payne. “There’s never been a larger gap in available jobs and skilled labor to fill them and that’s evident across the country.”

Payne has seen the number of students going into career and technology fields change over the years, but believes we will see an increase in those interested in those pathways in the coming years.

“It fluctuates a little bit as some occupations become high priority and others drop off. I think what you see now with new PA career ready index, which is now the measuring stick for all school districts, will bring more young people into career and tech,” he said.

Launched in November 2018, the Future Ready PA Index now evaluates students and school success based on three categories: academic performance, student progress and college and career readiness.

This requires schools to introduce students to career paths they might not have been as incentivized to introduce in the past.

“They have to do it now, to careers and different pathways. There should be a trickle down effect as children get exposed to these kinds of careers and paths to careers. I think you’re going to see a steady increase in CTE (Career Technical Education) enrollment in next 10 years,” said Payne.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

Essay entries sought for Christmas contest

Many folks use Christmas Eve to do some last-minute shopping, while others may attend a candle-lit church service. There are sure to be lots of children who spend the evening waiting to catch a glimpse of a certain someone. Whatever your favorite memory of this special day is, we’d like to hear about it.

This year, the 2019 Daily News Christmas Eve edition essay contest asks participants to celebrate “The Night Before Christmas” and all its rich traditions.

The 2019 essay contest is for all Daily News readers.

Any number of family members may enter, but only one entry per person may be submitted. Youth are also encouraged to enter their writings as well.

Type all stories double-spaced; if the entry is handwritten, please print and make sure the entry is legible.

The suggested length is 300 to 400 words.

Entries may also be mailed to The Daily News, attn: Christmas Eve Edition Editor, P.O. Box 384, Huntingdon, PA 16652, or hand-delivered to The Daily News office at 325 Penn St., Huntingdon.

As an additional method of submission, essays may also be emailed to mehresman@huntingdondailynews.com, however confirmation should be requested in order to ensure receipt.

Be sure to include author’s name, address and phone number with each entry.

Winning essays will be featured in the Christmas Eve Souvenir edition. In addition, the works of several honorable mention winners may also be published if space permits.

The first place winner of the essay contest will receive $50. Two second place winners will receive $35 each and three third place winners will receive $20 each.

Entries will be number coded for judging. All essays must be received (not postmarked) no later than 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6.

Candidate seeks nomination

Wanting to get out there early, a Westmoreland County man has officially announced he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for the spring 2020 primary for the U.S. representative for the 13th Congressional District.

Todd Rowley, a Jones Mills resident, is a former FBI agent and, most recently, a former park ranger for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at Linn Run State Park.

This isn’t Rowley’s first time running for the seat, as he planned to run in the spring 2018 primary for the seat once the 13th Congressional District was created due to the state Supreme Court ruling that forced congressional district lines to be redrawn.

“I announced a little bit late, and leading up to the deadline for signatures for petitions, it snowed every day,” he said. “I had a lot of great folks across the 10 counties (of the 13th Congressional District) working for me to obtain signatures, but we fell short of the 1,000 needed prior to the deadline.

“I chalked it up as a learning lesson and put my support behind Brett Ottaway,” Rowley added. “I said to myself if I considered running again, I would make my announcement early and get out ahead.”

Rowley also understands that he has a uphill battle ahead of him now with U.S. Rep. John Joyce as a Republican incumbent.

“I’m facing an electorate that is three to one Republican to Democrat,” he said. “But, our campaign is rooted in unity, not just to Democrats and Independents, but friends, neighbors and family members who are Republicans. My message is a message of unity and to Americans finding their way back to shared values we all have of civility, equality, respect for one another and the rule of law.”

He believes it’s important for those in the 13th Congressional District, as well as all Americans, find their way back to shared values that united everyone.

“There’s a areal divide of divisiveness and tribalism we’re all experiencing, for a host of different reasons,” said Rowley. “My message is one of unity as Americans, finding a way back to those shared values.”Without all of us as Americans taking that step, we’re not going to be able to address the issues all Americans are thinking about.”

One area where Rowley feels that Americans can all unite is their concern with the economy and jobs.

“I want to dismiss the rhetoric there’s a war on the coal industry. I don’t think that’s accurate,” said Rowley. “What’s driving some of the decline in production is based on coal companies and producers recognizing that coal is no longer profitable. They’re looking to transition to gas exploration and gas production.”

Being pragmatic, Rowley understands that while renewable energy is the way to go for the future, it can’t be without acknowledging the country is still dependent on fossil fuels for energy consumption.

“The energy department estimates that renewable energy consumption is about 17-18 percent, but most is still being provided by fossil fuels,” he said. “But we have to recognize the discussion about global climate change and that it’s real. We have scientists who research empirical data from previous decades. We have countries who have greater energy demands than we do. But, we need to take a step backward and not be a leader in that recognition that we have to learn from the front and invest where we know where the energy sector is moving.

“We have the best technology and innovation, but we have to have the leadership of the highest levels of government taking us in that direction,” Rowley added. “We have to embrace it. We can’t let the fear of change guide us. This is something that can produce millions of jobs. I am a proponent of protecting existing energy jobs as they move and transition from fossil fuel type of energy production, but as a realist, this can’t happen overnight, but we need to make those strides and steps forward where we know where our energy sector wants to take us. We need to be willing to embrace and allow energy sector to take us there.”

Other issues that Rowley feels strongly about that he believes those in the 13th Congressional District feel strongly about also include education, healthcare, public safety and justice reform and many more.

To learn more about Rowley and where he stands as a candidate, visit his campaign website at www.toddrowleyforcongress.com.

Friends meet to discuss parks' futures

Only members of the newly-formed Friends of Trough Creek and Warrior’s Path State Parks and Saxton Borough Mayor Alan Smith attended a meeting Thursday evening to discuss the future of the two parks.

The group heard from park manager Joe Basil who introduced Ryan Donovan, office III assistant regional park manager and park ranger Luke Stake.

Basil said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss survey results from a state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Bureau of State Parks Penn’s Park for All” planning initiative. The goal of the initiative is to help guide Pennsylvania’s state park professionals in carrying out the important work of caring for the 121 state parks in the state’s system for the next generation.

Basil said the first step of Penn’s Park for All involved conducting several surveys from June to October in 2017 to see how Pennsylvanians feel about present issues regarding the state park system. A total of 14,276 surveys were returned via electronic, regular mail and telephone surveys.

Surveys are still being accepted until Dec. 31, 2019. Final survey results will be available in summer 2020.

Other initiatives of the study are to help the state determine which parks are being bother over and under utilized. Warrior’s Path is one being underutilized.

While state residents are requesting additional state parks, Basil said if additional property is acquired for them, there is no additional funding allocated for them. State park officials, continued Basil, will never close a state park since those lands are the most protected lands in the state.

Additionally, he said with 10 million more people using Pennsylvania’s state parks, more employee’s to operate them taxes an already tight budget situation. But the survey will allow state officials to hear what the public is thinking.

Future things planned at Warrior’s Path include a soft boat launch for kayakers that has already been installed but is not quite completed. Basil said some complaints have already been received as to the location of the launch but said the site chosen to locate it was the best one.

Friends group members agreed they will come to the park within this month and help remove some unwanted vegetation. Other items planned at Warrior’s Path include the replacement of a restroom there with a new modern facility like one recently installed at Trough Creek.

Basil said DCNR officials continue to monitor the Rails-to-Trails project involving the right-of-way of the former Huntingdon & Broad Top Railroad that was just completed to the “Red Cut” area in Liberty Township. When the time comes that a connection is made from the trail there to the entrance to the state park will be extremely important to future development at Warrior’s Path.

At Trough Creek, future plans include the proposed relocation of a gate near Pavilion No. 5 closer to the Great Trough Creek stream for better access for kayakers. A small restroom at Trough Creek that was recently destroyed by falling trees from a wind storm will not be replaced.

Additional educational programs are being eyed for both parks next summer. The completion of a long awaited gabion basket stabilization project initiated in 2017 was finally completed, Basil reported.

Basil said plans are also in the works to switch buildings with DCNR Forestry officials and to raze former Civilian Conservation Camp (CCC) buildings to give better view to the old Paradise Furnace located on park property. He said it is a hope the old furnace can receive some rehabilitative attention to make it once again safe to approach to allow park visitors to learn of its history.

Smith asked what long-term goals are planned at Warrior’s Path. Basil said perhaps with the Friends group assistance the “lower road” there could be reopened and utilized as a hiking-biking trail. Park officials are also optimistic that overnight facilities could be developed at Warrior’s Path.

He said the biggest deterrent for both parks is lack of Internet-WIFI which in some cases might not be a bad thing to some park visitors wishing to escape the electronic world.

Surveys results collected so far indicate park patrons would like to see trails improved and maintained, an Americans with Disabilities (ADA)-approved kayakers launch installed and increased large family camp sites be created. While more modern accommodations were requested at both parks, Basil said these are merely “wish list” right now.

Addressing all state park infrastructure problems are other items addressed by the survey. At Trough Creek and Warrior’s Path, Basil reiterated that additional available educational programs and working closely with the Friends group are key tangible goals.

Smith said both Saxton Borough Council and Liberty Township Supervisors are anxiously awaiting working with state park officials to improve things at Warrior’s Path. Future development, he said. will also bring more people to the Saxton-Liberty Township area.

Basil agreed stating a partnership and good working relationship with municipal officials surrounding both parks is desired.

Adam can be reached at dnews@huntingdondailynews.com.

Oil leak detected at Tussey Mountain

It has been determined the source of an oil leak in the Saxton community earlier this month was from pipes at the Tussey Mountain High School.

On the early evening of Nov. 4, Dr. John Snyder alerted the Saxton Volunteer Fire Co. to the scent of fuel near his dental office. Firefighters went to the scene of a creek that appeared to be collecting some sort of fuel.

Prior to the 2006-07 school year, Tussey Mountain High School utilized oil-fired boilers for heat. Even after the building was fully renovated and switched to a more eco-friendly alternative, the old pipe lines remained. Currently, the heating oil is only used to warm the water in the building and fuel the school’s generator. During the renovation, however, a line was left plugged but still holding oil.

“That oil line got a hole in it, and then the oil went into a drain,” maintenance supervisor Jim Mitchell said, “And, it ended up going down into the creek.”

“Around 2 p.m. that day, we were dispatched for a fuel investigation at Dr. Snyder’s,” said Saxton Volunteer Fire Co. junior firefighter and TMHS senior Camden Rininger. “I looked at my phone; and since (we didn’t have enough people to crew up), I went down to the office to assist. We came to find the creek was red and full of heating oil, and we began the process of tracking it down to find where it came from.”

Mitchell, who was called to the scene around 4 p.m. that day, assisted firefighters in locating the origin of the leak. They were eventually led to the boiler room in the basement of the high school. After finding the source of the leak, they were able to isolate it and begin the process for cleanup. Clear Creek Co., an environmental emergency company out of Altoona, was contacted and continues to provide, place and replace PIG mats, which are hydrophobic mats that collect oil and repel water, to clear the waterway affected. An estimated 200 gallons of heating oil was lost.

“We managed to stop it before it made it to the (Juniata) river,” Rininger said.

“The fire company did a wonderful job,” Mitchell said. “They were on it and stayed on it, and they helped with putting the mats in the boiler room, even down to the creek. They had PIG mats of their own and were using stuff they had until the environmental company got here.

“DEP has been here, and they’re satisfied with what we are doing,” Mitchell added. “The fish (and boat) commission has also been here, and they’re satisfied with what we are doing to clean up the oil. None of it has reached the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River.”

DEP commended the district for its quick action once the leak was found.

Most students were unaware of the leak.

“I never heard about it, except from one of our teachers, and I usually know most of the things that go on throughout Tussey,” sophomore Caleb Sopher said. “(When I drive to school in the morning), I see them exchanging things and putting them into big trucks. I just thought it was trash from the football games, but I was eventually told it wasn’t.”

Crews worked around the clock on the night of the discovery to make sure the interior school environment was safe for students the next day. Large fans were brought in to ventilate the building throughout the night. There were no interruptions to the school schedule due to this incident.

“It’s an unfortunate thing that happened as a result of the refit,” said interim superintendent Jerry Shoemake. “Certainly we had no indication that this was even a concern. When it happened, we reacted as quickly as we possibly could, and we will continue to react to make everyone feel safe.”

The cleanup process is expected to take approximately two more weeks to complete. The total cost for the operation has not been made public at this time.

Donations always needed

The coming holidays mean large, festive meals for many. However, some Huntingdon County residents cannot supply their own meals on a regular basis. These residents rely on community food pantries and backpack programs to help sustain a healthy diet no matter what time of year.

In preparation for the holiday season, several local food pantries and backpack programs are checking their current supplies, what items are still needed and when and where to donate.

The Huntingdon Food Pantry has a plentiful supply of food, but there is always a need for more.

“We have plenty right now,” said Jean Feagley, administrator of the Huntingdon Food Pantry, “but we’re always accepting more. We accept things like canned goods, peanut butter, boxes of cereal, fruits and vegetables. For Thanksgiving, we are accepting turkeys, too.”

The Huntingdon Food Pantry accepts toiletries, as well. This would include such things as soap or toilet paper.

The Huntingdon Salvation Army, too, is currently in good supply and is looking to maintain those levels.

“We have enough at the moment, but the supply always goes down quickly” said Philip Bender, auxiliary captain of the Salvation Army. “Without more donations, we’ll run out in two weeks.”

The Salvation Army always accepts donations.

“We have a good amount of things including canned fruits, vegetables, soup, rice, cereal and juice,” Bender said,” but we’re always looking for more. What we do not have are things like potatoes, gravy, milk, spaghetti sauce or peanut butter.”

In addition to families seeking aid from area food pantries, many schools in the county now offer backpack programs for students. The programs provide backpacks filled with items that are nonperishable and easy to prepare during the weekend.

Linda Howe, founder of the Backpack Blessings programs at Juniata Valley Elementary School, said the program is looking for the same items Feagley and Bender mentioned.

“We’re accepting things for Thanksgiving,” she said. “But, mostly, we’re looking for things that can be used every day. That would be cereal, Pop-Tarts, canned chicken and tuna, vegetables, fruit, spaghetti, peanut butter and jelly, potato sides and snack foods like granola bars.”

Coordinator of the Standing Stone Elementary CARE Team Elana Clapper specified that their backpack program needs much of the same.

“We accept breakfast foods like Pop-Tarts, oatmeal packets, boxes of cereal, peanut butter and jelly, pancake mix and syrup; lunch foods like mac and cheese, canned pasta, soup and cans of veggies and dinner foods like boxed pasta, spaghetti sauce, hamburger help and tuna helper,” Clapper said.